Finding the Warmth in the Cold

(early 2002)

She shakes the thin layer of snow off of her back, flakes flying outward as if to flee her frame as swirls of roan, black and dusty beige slide into focus underneath. Flicking her ears backward and to the front once more as she stretches four long legs in turn, allowing with her slow movements the last vestiges of sleep to clear, she lifts her muzzle and sniffs the breeze. Currents of cool air flow about her, carrying the scents of crushed pine needles, damp earth, snow and moonlight, and she smiles to herself as she hears them whisper. Then, with no hesitation and a mighty leap, she bathes herself in the glow of the night, exiting her shelter and moving out into the forest proper.

The near-frozen earth crackles lightly under her otherwise-soundless paws as she slinks through the underbrush, ice-coated ferns bowing in submission as she passes. Somewhere above, a jay calls its displeasure, but she is unfazed - though one ear curves toward its lofty perch, her quarry is not of avian kind. From time to time, gnarled roots and fallen logs rise, threatening she who infringes upon their low-slung realm, but she merely chuckles with a raspy yowl, deftly winding her way between and over, her eyes - nearly black in the thin light - set gazing only ahead. Finally, the forest tires of the game she plays, retracting its pitfalls and predators, welcoming her as its own as, with a silent sound of triumph, she passes into a small clearing.

The silver gleam, shattered by the branches laced overhead in all directions yet still as glorious as any light could be, casts its chill over the space, curiously untouched by the winter desolation surrounding it. The snow still thickens the yellowed grass, but no tracks mar it, until her solemn feet enter. Silence reigns for a moment as she steps from the shadows into the open, allowing the space to surround her as she sits on her haunches in its centre, surveying her territory. Then, without fanfare, as Nature is wont to do, all revives - the mice again scamper through the undergrowth, the bats flap blindly overhead, and a few snowflakes wind their way down from their cotton perches below the banner of stars. Noting this, she half-closes her eyes, trusting in the safety of the place, and raises her face to the sky. She wishes for but a moment for the voice of a wolf, the ability to call out her joy to the universe itself, but is then overcome with what she has, and the awareness that the universe knows without being told. So she sits in silence, tail curved around her body - curiously warm amid the ice - as she revels in finding here what had been within her all along.